The CW does viral outbreak with mixed results.
This weekend, The pilot for the CW’s Containment at WonderCon in LA, ahead of the series premiere on Tuesday, April 19. Having now seen the episode myself, I can say it’s just as grounded and seemingly plausible as creator Julie Plec (Vampire Diaries, The Originals) suggested, even if the characters lack personality and charm right off the bat.
Based on the Belgian series Cordon, Containment offers a brutal glimpse at what a viral epidemic might be like in Atlanta, Georgia — that is, if Georgia were only populated by pretty people (many of them feigning American accents). When said virus begins to spread, local and federal officials try to contain the outbreak and track down Patient Zero before the virus leaves the city. Of course, it isn’t long before chaos and panic run rampant across town.
Seeing as how this is an ensemble show, it’s hard to pinpoint who the “lead” is. Throughout the first episode, we only get a scant few minutes with each of the characters, and precious little time to set them up. I might argue the main character is police officer Lex Carnahan (Interstellar’s David Gyasi), who’s sort of the audience surrogate during most of the premiere’s expository scenes, which are headed up by Dr. Sabine Lommers (Farscape’s Claudia Black). At the same time, Lex’s girlfriend Jana Mayfield (Christina Marie Moses) and fellow officer Jake Riley (Chris Wood) are trapped within the quarantine zone.
Also on the inside are 17-and-pregnant Teresa (Hanna Mangan Lawrence), who’s been separated from her boyfriend Xander (Demetrius Bridges); Katie Frank (Kristen Gutoskie), a grade-school teacher with a pile of kids on a class field trip; and CDC researcher Dr. Victor Cannerts, one of the key players in diagnosing the virus and finding a cure.
Bottom line, there’s a ton of characters in this — almost too many for one pilot — and none of them are all that interesting. In typical CW fashion, each person comes with their own emotional baggage, leaving plenty of room for relationship drama down the line. Jake and Jana, for example, used to date before Jana got with Lex, so it’s probably only a matter of time before those two “reconnect” in the heat of the moment. Meanwhile, the performances range from wooden to decent. Lex delivers a pretty good speech to Xander in the premiere’s final moments.
Containment also does a good job of making this scenario feel like it could actually happen. (Not surprisingly, the series’ producers consulted with the real-life CDC and Georgia’s Department of Public Health for research.) At first, the characters fail to take what’s going on seriously, until they realize they’ve already been exposed and cut off from the outside world.
The pilot also hints at a larger bio-terrorist conspiracy that could prove to be interesting moving forward. Jake gets in on some of that subplot, as he investigates a potential Patient Zero’s home. Unfortunately, that’s about the only storyline that sets itself apart from other similar shows, and even that is fairly standard stuff.